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One stitch at a time
More than 300 people participate in traditional sewing program

Kassina Ryder
Northern News Services
Published Tuesday, June 22, 2010

IKALUKTUTIAK/CAMBRIDGE BAY - Learning to sew was so popular in Cambridge Bay this winter, more than 300 community members participated in the Kitikmeot Heritage Society's Sewing Circles program.

The program ran from last October until earlier this month, said Renee Krucas, executive director of the Kitikmeot Heritage Society.

"The Sewing Circles program was a tremendous success," she said. "We have never had so many people of all ages participate in one single KHS program."

Six community elders -- Mary Avalak, Mabel Etegik, Lena Kamoayok, Mary Kaniak, Mary Kilaodluk and Annie Atighioyak -- and one youth apprentice, Monica Egotak, led the program.

Twenty-nine year old Egotak said she decided to join the program as a sewing instructor to help teach a traditional activity to community members.

"This is something that my ancestors were doing," she said. "That's why I want to keep the traditions alive."

Egotak said she learned sewing from her late grandmother.

"I watched her and then she started letting me sew along with her. I'd make little things," she said. "Around nine years ago I started really getting into sewing."

Various individuals and community groups participated in the program over its eight-month lifespan, including both of Cambridge Bay's schools. Every class from kindergarten to junior high spent time learning traditional sewing skills.

One of the lessons included making mittens, which were tailored to each skill level.

"For younger kids we used calico material and for the lining we used fleece and for the trim we used rabbit fur," she said.

For the older kids, "We were using rabbit fur and then for the inside we used fleece."

Egotak said she enjoyed teaching the students to sew and said she hopes they will take what they've learned and pass those skills along.

"We've got the students into sewing," she said. "We're trying to get them to sew as much as they could so they can keep passing on the traditional skills."

Egotak said if the program is held next year, she will definitely get involved again.

"Hopefully if they have funding for me to work here, that's what I'm hoping for," she said.

This year's program was funded by the Department of Culture, Languages, Elders and Youth, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., BHP Billiton and New Horizons for Seniors.

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